I really enjoyed reading How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. I had my highlighter and marked up the whole book. There were so many interesting ideas and I was struck by the connections I found to the Suzuki philosophy and writings of Dr. Suzuki.
“What matters most in a child’s development, they say, is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years. What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence. Economists refer to these as noncognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us sometimes think of them as character.”
The above quote from the introduction of How Children Succeed, for example, immediately brought to my mind this quote by Dr. Suzuki.
“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”
One Suzuki principle which I saw in the book is the importance of a child’s environment.
In How Children Succeed, which I will hereafter refer to as HCS, it says,
“Children who grow up in stressful environments generally find it harder to concentrate, harder to sit still, harder to rebound from disappointments, and harder to follow directions. And that has a direct effect on their performance in school.”
Compare to this quote by Dr. Suzuki,
“A child’s slowness in any subject indicates a deficiency in his environment, educational or otherwise.”
In How Children Succeed, it says,
“The prefrontal cortex is more responsive to intervention than other parts of the brain, and it stays flexible well into adolescence and early adulthood.”
Every child can learn, and ability develops early because young brains are so ready and able to learn.
I was particularly interested in the section about the research on parenting and stress.
“It turns out that there is a particularly effective antidote to the ill effects of early stress, and it comes not from pharmaceutical companies or early-childhood educators but from parents. Parents and other caregivers who are able to form close, nurturing relationships with their children can foster resilience in them that protects them from many of the worst effects of a harsh early environment. This message can sound a bit warm and fuzzy, but it is rooted in cold, hard science. The effect of good parenting is not just emotional or psychological, the neuroscientists say; it is biochemical.” (HCS, 28)
Dr. Suzuki strongly believed it was the job of the parent to cultivate the child’s ability and character, and now it looks like science supports those claims.
I thought this was one of the most encouraging quotes from the How Children Succeed:
“…One of the most promising facts about programs that target emotional and psychological and neurological pathways is that they can be quite effective later on in childhood too-much more so than cognitive interventions. Pure IQ is stubbornly resistant to improvement after about age eight. But executive functions and the ability to handle stress and manage strong emotions can be improved, sometimes dramatically, well into adolescence and even adulthood.”
What were your main takeaways from How Children Succeed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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